The moment has come to draw up a balance sheet after the IFJ Congress in Dublin, and its balance is very preoccupying for the International Federation of Journalists. By writing this, I don’t target by priority the irregularity which marked the election to its presidency, but the progress of the meeting, impeccably organized by the NUJ Ireland, but more chaotic than the Cadiz Congress in 2010.
Three years ago, a scapegoat was easy to find: by blocking some procedure points, the General Secretary had largely contributed to the paralysis of the debate. The new elected direction didn’t take much time after the Congress to fire him. Three years later, Aidan White is not there any more, and the IFJ incapacity to organize its second true election (and as a matter of a fact its first one as back in 2007, the outgoing President, Christopher Warren who sought a fourth mandate had practically no chance, while here the outgoing president meant to smash the challenger, but came a cropper) has considerably slowed down the assembly’s work. The outgoing Administrative and Executive Committees are largely responsible of this as they prepared the agenda for the Dublin Congress. And further, the organizational mode of the IFJ Congress, and also of the EFJ General and Annual Meetings should be revised: the Anglo-Saxon model has reached its limits.
Is it for instance normal that the IFJ working program for 2013-2016 was adopted in a few seconds, amid an incredible noise, without any debate, without any amendments, by an impossible to determine majority, in the very end of the Congress, while the difficulties to tell the poll’s results had already provoked a delay of the closure hour?
Is it normal that a crucial motion, moved by eleven member-unions, designed to trace the IFJ future strategies, was placed in queue of the list? Its discussion was hardly open that the IFJ outgoing Vice-President took the floor to present on the screen a battery amendments no participant had received in written form! Then followed a private discussion type pub’s discussion between the French promoter of those amendments and the main motion’s mover, from where they came with a consensus the meeting wasn’t able to evaluate, which didn’t prevent the Congress to approve the amended motion. It’s not difficult to imagine how sharp the critics would be in the media, if an elected body behaved like this on essential documents, from the national Parliament to the municipal council of the smallest village!
Another IFJ’s sin is its lack of coherency. It puts it’s fighting for gender balance, but doesn’t defend it very much internally: in the new elected Executive Committee, three women will face eighteen man! Some will probably shameless blame women not to have been candidates! One mustn’t forget that voting instructions (which are of course denied) were given to “punish” member-unions which had supported my candidature, en their result was to exclude from the Executive Comittee the Norwegian candidate to its vice-presidency. Nice reward for the work she has done during years for journalists, men en women,in the world!
And then the consequences of the irregular presidential election. In his closure address (where he failed to mention his challenger), the irregularly reelected IFJ President announced he would take contact with the member-unions which had left the Congress: obviously, he must still understand that the irregularity was only the last cause of anger to these member-unions and that he definitely lost (if this weren’t yet the case) the confidence of many member-unions within the Federation. He was reelected after hardly a glowing campaign, but his electoral success has all aspects of a Pyrrhus’ victory. Not for him but unfortunately for the International Federation of Journalists itself. Because his appetite for power or acknowledgment brings it on the brink of implosion. While its lack of visibility, its financial opacity, and its failing democratic transparence which were evoked in the electoral debate will further last.
Is it possible to restore the situation? Right now, it’s very difficult to predict, unless the president makes a step aside or the second election which was refused in Dublin would be organized (but how?) without the NUJ pressure. It might help to slow down the pressure, but nothing indicates by this time that one of those solutions could be chosen. Meanwhile, in many countries in the world, journalists are assassinated, kidnapped, arrested or repressed. Some motions evoked their fate in Dublin. But from now on a heavily weakened IFJ has to face the challenges…